Öcalan's lawyers prepare to respond to Turkey's answer to UN

Asrın Law Office's application to the UN Human Rights Committee about the situation of Abdullah Öcalan and the 3 other prisoners in Imralı is pending. Lawyers are preparing to submit their response to Turkey's answer to the UN.

In 2022, lawyers of the Asrın Law Office requested that the issue of family and lawyer denied visits to Kurdish people's leader Abdullah Öcalan, Ömer Hayri Konar, Hamili Yıldırım and Veysi Aktaş, who are held in İmralı, be examined by the United Nations UN Subcommittee on the Prevention of Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment.

The UN Committee accepted the request for measures as a priority and in September 2022 demanded from the Turkish government an end to the incommunicado detention, and that the applicants be given immediate and unrestricted access to a lawyer of their choice. As it did not comply with this decision, the government was reminded of the urgent request in January 2023.

Turkey did not comply with them, using arguments that ignored these injunctions.

Abdullah Öcalan's lawyers are now preparing a response to Turkey's answer. Speaking to ANF, lawyer Ibrahim Bilmez from Asrın Law Office stated that they will send this answer soon, and that the UN will make a decision on the merits later.

Application to all institutions

Lawyer Bilmez explained why they brought this decision to international councils, saying: "We are faced with an unprecedented unlawfulness. We are doing our best to overcome this isolation. We apply to all institutions. Both national and international. We haven't heard from our four clients in Imrali, a prison affiliated to the Ministry of Justice, for two and a half years. This is not a situation we see in other countries, including those described as 'third world countries'."

The lawyer added: “For two and a half years, we had no news and were prevented from going and seeing them. No phone calls were allowed, no letters.

We have constantly brought this issue to the Council of Europe bodies. We've been doing this since '99. Many of our applications are still at the European Court of Human Rights and the Committee of Ministers. But unfortunately, we could not get the result we wanted. That's why, in 2022, we decided to make an application to the United Nations. The UN also has a body called the Human Rights Committee, a sort of international court. But the authority for this is the whole world. In other words, it does not only include the member countries of the Council of Europe. It includes all the countries that are members of the UN in the world. He has authority over them. It deals with human rights violations and makes decisions. We decided to take this issue of isolation to the United Nations because we thought it was against human rights."

Turkey did not fulfil the requirements of the UN

Lawyer Bilmez said that all domestic remedies were exhausted when they resolved to apply to the UN, and added that Turkey did not comply with the many decisions taken in the process. "The United Nations has twin agreements. That's why we applied about the issue of isolation. First, we applied to the prison. Then we applied to the prosecutor's office, then to the execution judgeship. When we received rejection, we applied to the High Criminal Court. When we received a rejection from there, we applied to the Constitutional Court on 24 December 2021. We have made an application for an action request. The Constitutional Court rejected our request for an injunction on 12 January 2022."

Lawyer Bilmez said that "thus, domestic law was exhausted. Therefore, we applied to the United Nations Human Rights Committee for the first time on 29 July 2022. We applied for precautionary measures. We said that we had not heard from Mr. Abdullah Öcalan and our other 3 clients in Imrali since the phone call [made by Öcalan] on 25 March 2021. This means a violation of many rights that are also regulated by the Human Rights Convention. To us, it means torture. We say that according to the texts on which the UN is based, this type of execution regime, that is, not being able to reach or receive information from anyone, also means torture. This form of detention - in some of the previous decisions by the committee - is called something like ‘abduction’.

The United Nations Human Rights Committee requested a measure on this issue on 6 September 2022 and wrote to Turkey, asking the government to make sure that Öcalan can meet with his lawyers without any restrictions. But Turkey did not comply with this."

The lawyers denounced this and again wrote to the UN that Turkey was not fulfilling its obligations. "That's why – said the lawyer - we demanded the UN to intervene. In January 2023, the UN Human Rights Committee reminded the Turkish government of its obligations. After that reminder, we applied both to the execution judgeship in Turkey and to the Bursa Chief Public Prosecutor's Office. We also submitted this request for precaution to the Constitutional Court. But none of these authorities did anything."

Turkey ignores all obligations

Lawyer Bilmez said that the process is continuing, that Turkey has sent a presentation to the UN, and that the lawyers will soon submit their answers to the Committee. "The government sent its views to the United Nations. However, this government did not mention either our request for action or the UN's response. It literally ignored it. It didn't give him any answer. Because there is no answer it can give. We have now prepared our own response to the government's submissions and are about to send it. After we submit it, the UN Committee will make a decision on the merits. But we don't know yet how long this process will last."